Some people think and have openly told 15-year-old John Turatsinze that his passion of making mini houses from boxes that he has meticulously measured and put together is childish.
Others have cheered him on, because behind those ‘houses’, they have seen potential.
At only nine, a much younger Turatsinze was already feeling like he could build a house. Since then, making mini houses became his hobby and a passion he was sharing with other children in Karembure, a neighborhood located in Gahanga Sector, Kicukiro District.
“I started building small mud houses. Children in my neighborhood would join me just to have fun, but now, it is different because my passion for this keeps growing day after day,” he says.
Turatsinze says that what started as a hobby and later a passion is already pushing him to become an engineer.
“I now have a dream to realize. I want to be an engineer,” says the Primary Five student at Gahanga Primary School whose favorite subject is Science and Elementary Technology (SET).
His performance in school has recently dropped to average, something that has been brought on by the sudden separation of his parents.
One of the many miniature houses made by Turatsinze by using boxes.
Turatsinze is the second child in a family of four, all who live with their mother after her husband abandoned her for another woman.
Turatsinze’s creativity in making numerous building designs out of the boxes shows no signs of going a step back.
When Sunday Times paid him a visit, he was busy putting final touches on his ‘house’ samples (pictured).
The house has six bedrooms, family room, a dining room, a bathroom and a kitchen.
“I started with a traditional hut but now I only make modern houses into boxes. I made this (pictured) as a sample to show you how I do it,” he said.
Turatsinze spends his free time and weekends looking for new innovations to produce nice house products using the boxes he collects in the neighborhood.
He then uses glue, razors, scissors, a pen, a ruler and a painting kit to design and finish the house.
He can make at least three houses in a week and he already has clients on the streets who buy them for decoration purposes.
The prices for his works vary between Rwf2,000 and Rwf 5000.
“Some people used to discourage me that no one can buy a house made out of boxes but they were wrong. In fact, people like my work and I have never taken any of my designs back home at the end of the day just because I failed to get a client,” he says.
Turatsinze uses the money he collects from his work to pay some of his tuition and also buy school materials and he also helps his mother feed the family and sometimes pays the house rent.
He says he can make whatever building regardless of its design and is motivated by the fact that people are increasingly getting interested in his work and he aims to dig deeper and do all he can to achieve his dream to become a world-class architect.
Turatsinze’s main inspiration is his father who fixes faulty fridges, motorcycles and bikes though he did not study all that in school.
“My father fixes fridges though he does not do it professionally. For me, I want to study and do it professionally, that is my ambition,” he said.
His main objective is to turn his passion into a professional career in the future despite being born in a poor family.
“My dream is to study architecture or engineering but I doubt if I will achieve it because it is already difficult for my parents to afford primary school education. If I am assured of support, I can realize my dream,” he says.
What people say about him
Dada Uwimana, Turatsinze’s childhood friend says that he has the potential to become a great architect but stresses that his talent is nothing without mentorship and support to develop it.
“If he is placed into good hands, there is no doubt his talent can turn into something great. This cannot only change his life and his family’s but he can also become an asset in the construction sector. That is why he needs support,” he said.
Henriette Mukangango, Turatsinze’s mother, has confidence that her son has a bright future ahead but is quick to add that he needs financial backing to support his dream.
“My son only dreams to become an engineer. However, financial capacity remains a threat because it is even difficult for me to afford his schools fees when he is still merely at the primary level. That said, I can’t stop encouraging him to keep pushing and to perform well at school. The only hope I have is that he will get the support someday to achieve his dream,” she said.